Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reflection: Online Professional Development

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This past semester I was part of an online professional development for Media Studies 120 and Journalism 120. Each curriculum went through a much deserved revamp, and the purpose of the online professional development was to become acquainted with new material, new ideas and hear from some teachers who shared best practices in the classroom.

That previous summer a similar onsite session was held, and I had planned to attend, but was unable to attend due to some other commitments. The onsite session had been videotaped, so part of that was included in the online session.

I was unsure how well I would enjoy the online session. It was the first time I  did a full day of online PD in my own classroom. Overall, it was a great experience. For one thing, I could pause it whenever I wanted! How convenient! If someone was talking about an online resource, I could pause the video, and then surf the web, find it, look it over and then return to the session. Not something that is possible during a real session when sometimes you feel uncomfortable surfing the Internet as someone is speaking.

Additionally, there was an interesting dynamic that occurred as I sat in my classroom, listening to other teachers discuss their teaching practices, and looking around my classroom and considering my students and resources and how I could do something similar. I know in an onsite session I can reflect on how I could apply something to my class, but to be in that space as I was considering it had a different effect. Maybe it just feels more tangible and real? I am not completely sure.

There certainly is something to be said about onsite sessions where collaboration and discussion is available. Bouncing ideas and suggestions off of other teachers can be highly effective and rewarding. But then again, some session presenters have every intention of allowing the time for such activities, but many times it never materialized. Additionally, sometimes the people you sit with can be more of a distraction (sometimes I can be the distraction if I get bored!).

I gave the experience a lot of positive feedback on the evaluation form. That online session has left me wondering if I should not be participating in more online PD. I know many times I receive emails, from various education technology sites I subscribe to, who offer online sessions. Sometimes they are driven purely for commercial reasons. But, still, some of the information could be useful.

When I think of the time wasted driving, the money spent on facilities and accommodations, I wonder if online PD will become more commonplace in my province. Unfortunately, we seem to be moving into a time when money is scarce and budgets are tight. This type of PD may become more popular than we realize.

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